Thandai is a delicious cooling drink made with milk, flavored with nuts, seeds and spices, and adorned with saffron strands and rose petals. Thandai is enjoyed in the Northern parts of India during the warm summer months and especially on the occasion of Holi.
March is the season of Holi, the festival of color, similar to the beautiful colors of spring. This is the Indian festival welcoming spring.
In different regions of India, people perform different rituals. In North India, the day before Holi people burn a holy fire, called Holika Dahan.
As a child, I prepared for Holi starting early in the morning. Filling balloons with water, getting the variety of colors ready. Then as the day started, all friends and family would get together to play Holi. Put lots of colors on each other and throw the balloons, get everyone wet.
Here is a bollywood video that might give you can idea of what Holi is like. Okay, to be fair we don't sing and dance as much 🙂
But guess what, I don't miss Holi much anymore. Here in the bay area, we have many Holi celebrations. One of the popular one's which has been going on for more than 10 years is the Asha Holi at Stanford.
I enjoyed this while I studied and lived there. Now there are many more Holi celebraions that happen almost all weekends in the month of March. Here is a video of the real Holi at Stanford in 2015.
Now let's discuss the food for Holi. The favorite drink is Thandai. Traditionally, people served Thandai with a dose of bhaang (a preparation of cannabis) to adults.
What is Thandai?
Thandai is also called Sardai in some parts of India. Thand means cold, so Thandai is a cool and refreshing drink. Thandai is made with a special spice mix, which is mixed in milk. We will make the Thandai paste/syrup and then the Thandai Milk in this recipe.
If you want to store the thandai mixture, make the Thandai Masala powder, which has a longer shelf life.
You can also buy Thandai mix at the Indian grocery stores and mix that in milk. However it is so easy to make at home, and you don't have to use the store bought ones which have preservatives.
As you can see they are all nutritious ingredients. You can mix with a glass of milk anytime and have tasty Thandai ready quickly.
Thandai is filled with the goodness of natural ingredients such as nuts, seeds and spices, along with milk. One of the most important step with making Thandai is collecting all the ingredients.
- Almonds - Loaded with healthy fats and antioxidant properties, they are a rich source of vitamin E.
- Cashews - Cashews are rich in fiber, heart-healthy fats, and protein.
- Pistachios - Pistachios are an excellent source of protein, antioxidants, and fiber.
- Fennel seeds - They keep the body cool during summers, aid digestive system and cure flatulence.
- Poppy seeds - Rich in protein, fibre, calcium, fat, and minerals, they help relieve gastrointestinal irritation and boost the immune system.
- Melon seeds - They are a natural energizer.
- Dried Rose Petals - Rose petals contain phytochemicals and antioxidants
- Spices such as cardamom and peppercorn are known to boost immunity
- Milk - I use whole milk to get a thick creamy thandai
- Sugar - I used regular white granulated sugar as a sweetener.
- Rose Water - This adds a wonderful fresh flavor to the drink.
How to make Thandai at home?
You will easily find most of the ingredients. The only ingredients I thought was a bit tricky was melon seeds (or charmagaz) and dried rose petals. I found these at the Indian grocery store.
First you want to blanch the almonds. Soak them overnight or soak in hot water for 15-30 minutes. Then peel the skin.
While the almonds are soaking, you can also soak the other nuts and seeds if you like. This will help to soften them, and make it easier to grind.
Now add all the ingredients to a blender or spice grinder. I used Vitamix to grind the ingredients as it can grind to a fine powder or paste.
You can add milk while grinding to make a paste or thandai syrup (more liquid).
The ingredients to make Thandai now are - milk, thandai paste, sugar, saffron, rose water and optionally dried rose petals (or rose water). Add 1-2 tablespoon of thandai paste per glass of milk (about 8oz) and one tablespoon of sugar (adjust to taste).
Add milk to a heavy bottom pan on medium-high heat, and bring to a gentle boil. Add saffron strands to the milk, while it is heating.
Reduce the heat to low, then mix in the thandai paste and sugar. Then add in the rose water. Use a whisk to mix the thandai with the milk. Take off heat.
Let this rest for at least 30 minutes or you can let it cool, and refrigerate it overnight. This helps for the milk to soak in all wonderful flavors. Then strain the thandai. Make sure to take out all the milk from the sieve by pressing the remains.
However if you are not particular about a smooth drink. I would say, don't strain. Why lose the awesome nutrients in the strainer? 😊
Serve chilled thandai in glasses. Garnish with saffron strands, dried rose petals, or sliced pistachios.
If you prefer a stronger yellow color for the Thandai. You can add natural yellow food color, or turmeric or much more saffron.
Make sure to serve thandai chilled. You can also make thandai 1-2 days in advance and refrigerate it.
With all the wonderful nutrients, thandai is a healthy drink to enjoy during pregnancy. It can help with heart burn with its cooling effects. It is best to have it in moderation.
Thandai is made with nuts, seeds, and whole spices, along with milk. These are all healthy natural ingredients, which boost energy and immunity, and improve digestion. This makes thandai a healthy cooling drink to enjoy, especially during summer months.
Although thandai made with whole dairy milk is not vegan, you can make it vegan by using almond milk or another vegan milk of choice.
Enjoy Thandai during this Holi! It would be a great addition to a Holi together 🙂
Thandai Recipe (Flavored Drink for Holi)
For Thandai paste
Make Thandai Paste
- First blanch the almonds. Soak them overnight or soak in hot water for 15-30 minutes. Then peel the skin.
- While the almonds are soaking, you can also soak the other nuts and seeds if you like. This will help to soften them, and make it easier to grind.
- Transfer the almonds to a blender along with all ingredients for Thandai paste and make a fine paste. Add milk as needed to make a smooth paste or syrup.
- Add milk to a heavy bottom pan on medium-high heat, and bring to a gentle boil. Add saffron strands to the milk, while it is heating.
- Reduce the heat to low, then mix in the thandai paste and sugar. Then add in the rose water. Use a whisk to mix the thandai with the milk. Take off heat.
- Let this rest for at least 30 minutes or you can let it cool, and refrigerate it overnight. This helps for the milk to soak in all wonderful flavors.
- Strain the thandai. Make sure to take out all the milk from the sieve by pressing the remains.
- Serve thandai in glasses. Garnish with saffron strands, dried rose petals, and optimally sliced pistachios. Serve chilled.
Note: Nutrition values are my best estimates. If you rely on them for your diet, use your preferred nutrition calculator.